Claudia Ferrai, working with Atkins Global, and Wardell Armstrong’s Scott Matthews help the LI promote and champion the landscape profession to students

    Ambassador for Landscape Scott Matthews working with students at Annbank Primary School, Ayrshire
    Claudia Ferrai, a landscape architect who recently moved from Atkins Global to Gillespies, and Scott Matthews, Senior Landscape Architect at Wardell Armstrong LLP, discuss what being an Ambassador for Landscape means to them, and their commitment to engaging students in the landscape profession.

    Claudia volunteered her time for Dream Networks’s Love Play programme.

    Love Plays is a programme that engages children in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in fun and practical ways. With the help of industry ambassadors, Dream Networks deliver Love Plays through 12-week programmes that capture children’s passion for play by encouraging them to design playgrounds for disadvantaged areas. Atkins Global is currently supporting the program by encouraging its employees to participate, and while I was working at Atkins, I was able to be part of the first Love Plays programme, where we worked with children from Macaulay Primary School and Lambeth Academy in Clapham. The brief was to design a playground for the Molo Street Children project in Kenya.

    It was so exciting to see the children talking about their designs, asking questions and thinking through the brief

    The programme focussed strongly on sustainability, community, culture and local climate. The first workshop was about explaining who landscape architects and engineers are and how we work together. Showing students a series of playground projects in London, I encouraged them to consider climate and materials and explore the types of activities they could do using particular play equipment. I then contrasted this with images of Molo, Kenya and examples of play there, prompting a brainstorming session about local materials, their suitability in a hot climate and play activities that children in Molo could do.

    In the following session, the children designed play equipment. It was so exciting to see them talking about their designs, asking questions and thinking through the brief. The activity brought out the young students’ natural enthusiasm for play and playgrounds, and they knew intuitively what could work. I was fascinated by the way the students communicated their designs, both verbally and visually. They were attentive, full of ideas and, to my surprise, fully understood the brief and health and safety requirements!

    The children’s design varied in complexity, from using car tires to make a swing or a tunnel, to creating a treasure hunt involving a series of challenges. Encouraging ‘crazy’ ideas was a great way to get them thinking creatively and it was rewarding to see them talking among themselves about their designs, asking questions and explaining it to their classmates.

    Programmes such as Love Plays really help children at this age to learn that they can not only be creative, but see their ideas become reality. They give them confidence, break down barriers between adults and children, and promote the ideas of imagination and understanding that underpin landscape projects and the collaborative nature of the work we do. Opportunities such as this are why I really enjoy being an Ambassador for Landscape and raising awareness of the landscape profession.

    If you are interested in volunteering for the Love Plays school progamme, please get in touch with Dream Networks.


    Scott and his colleague Wiki Szulik conducted a workshop to engage pupils when working on a playground brief.

    We had been commissioned to prepare a landscape design for a playground rejuvenation at Annbank Primary School in South Ayrshire. To really understand the school and its landscape context, we conducted an interactive workshop to get to know the children who would be using it.

    Our work really can inspire pupils about the difference they can make to their environment through landscape architecture

    We tailored the workshop around the work the pupils had been doing in their maths lessons. We split the class into four groups and gave each group a topographic survey of the school grounds (at a scale of 1:100, so that the children could easily measure the map using a standard metric ruler). In advance of the workshop, we’d prepared a sketch concept design based on our initial impressions and had also prepared a selection of cutouts of various features of the sketch plan including trees, hedges, earth mounds and benches – all at 1:100 scale. Each group then placed the features where they felt they were best situated in the playground and justified their selection through discussion. They supplemented their plans with sketches and notes to give a comprehensive illustration of what they wanted to see in their playground.

    We finished with a discussion of each group’s favourite parts of their designs and a presentation of the sketch design we had prepared earlier, working out how to incorporate the children’s proposed features into the landscape design. This approach made for a productive and effective hour with the pupils, with outcomes that could easily inform our redesign on return to the drawing board.

    I can’t stress how valuable it is that we as landscape architects consider the cross-curricular applications of our profession. The work we do has the potential to appeal to such a wide range of pupil interests. Being an Ambassador for Landscape provides me with the opportunity to inspire pupils about the difference they can make to their environment through landscape architecture.

    If you are interested in becoming an Ambassador for Landscape, please contact Poppy Smith on , or by calling 020 7685 2656.

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